For those of you who don't know Pelayo Diaz, or Prince Pelayo, or Katelovesme, let me start by explaining who he is and why I'm writing this open letter. I thought everybody knew who he was like Bryanboy, but from the astounded reactions of my Twitter followers yesterday, it turns out only the most 'fashion'-obsessed seem to be aware of his existence, at least in the English-speaking world. Pelayo is a Spanish fashion designer, former student of Central Saint Martins, and the face behind the fashion blog Katelovesme. Katelovesme has never been particularly about the words – they're usually a few sentences tacked onto the end of a photoshoot. In fact, at the start, his blog wasn't even really about fashion, and he became internet-famous by photographing his hedonistic East-London student lifestyle and an almost constant stream of topless (or more) images (the guy is certainly attractive...). His blog has evolved its own distinctive outfit-post style, both in terms of photography, arrangement and his pseudo-punk luxury outfits, and he has been featured in many mainstream fashion publications. Anyway, that's Pelayo and his blog.
Now let's look at a timeline of events which has led to me writing this post. A week ago, Pelayo uploaded a post called Sky Is The Limit, which featured photographs of himself inside the Holocaust memorial next to the Jewish Museum in Berlin. This memorial is called the Denkmal für die ermordeten Jüden Europas – the Memorial for the murdered Jews of Europe – and features an array of concrete blocks arranged at different heights, designed to create a superficially ordered system which in fact confuses and disorientates the visitor. The memorial is accompanied by an information centre listing the names of all the known Jews who were murdered by the Nazi government in Germany.
At the time, I couldn't quite believe he'd posted this. This is a memorial to the millions of Jews across Europe who were brutally and systematically murdered, the most disgusting event to have happened in recorded human history, and there he was, posing in his electric pink Céline. And even worse was the accompanying text:
“The good thing is that it doesn't make you think about the past...and that's something I love being involved with.” Can we read that a second time, please? “The good thing is that it doesn't make you think about the past...and that's something I love being involved with.” This memorial, that is to say this construction designed with the specific task of making you think about, making you remember those who were murdered, didn't make Pelayo think about the past. Horrific.
Anyway, I commented on the post that I found this shocking. Yesterday I was looking at this new blog doing the rounds, which records Grindr users who take their profile photos at the memorial, and I was reminded of Pelayo's post. I went back to look at it again and discovered two more people has left sensible comments, amongst the thirty or so others who raved about his bag or his coat. It just made me so angry that I had to tweet about it, and subsequently stirred up a lot of shit. Several people from my timeline tweeted at Pelayo, enraged, until he finally posted this on his Facebook fan page:
“I don't think they are disrespectful or inappropriate in any way.” Astounded. Amazed. I can't believe anybody could be so insensitive and show such a lack of insight in a public forum, and not even see the error of his ways when pointed out. Because Pelayo wasn't using the images of the memorial to help us remember the atrocities which happened. He was using them for his own personal gain. A chic, clinical backdrop for his colourful outfit. A chance to add some faux philosophical twaddle to the end of his post to make him seem intelligent. And, most sickeningly of all, he was using the images for financial gain. Note the banner to the side of his image – it's an ad for a jacket from the same collection that Pelayo is wearing, designed by his boyfriend and employer.
I can't remember if you're 'allowed' to take photos inside the memorial. I went several years ago and I really can't remember any more. I know lots of tourists still do, as the Grindr blog proves. But if photographs are permitted, I suspect they aren't supposed to be used for commercial purposes.
So this is why I found Pelayo's post insensitive and offensive. And this is why I found his response horrifying. And this is why Pelayo has lost an intermittent reader in me.
Images screen-grabbed from Katelovesme and Facebook.